Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Inner~View #60: 1,000,000 Praying Pastors?

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Dean Gambill, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Praying Pastors Project

Phil ~ Give us a little history on this new project, Dean - How did the PPP get started?

Dean ~ In 2005, a dozen prayer ministry leaders met together at a prayer conference to answer the question, “What is the biggest hindrance you find to prayer in churches?” The unanimous answer from the group was pastors who are overwhelmed and have relegated prayer to a small group of intercessors. The group realized that during their academic careers, none of them had ever taken a course in prayer. Nine of the group members had seminary degrees. In response, the National Prayer Committee established a task force to study how to best address this shortcoming. As far as we can determine, it looks like less than 5% of graduates coming out of American theological institutions ever had a course in personal or corporate prayer. “Giving Ourselves to Prayer” is the first fruit of this Task Force on Prayer in Theological Education. This first of its kind textbook is 592 pages, contains 80 chapters written by 80 different authors from across the theological spectrum. It is now being adopted into the curricular choices of several bible colleges and seminaries.

The Praying Pastors Project (PPP) came along as the National Prayer Committee was getting ready to release “Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry in July 2008. While seeing it used in our theological schools is exciting it is also slow going. So the next question was, “What about the pastors and priests who aren’t going back to school but need education and encouragement in the area of prayer? Ron Simons of Greater Calling and Harvest Prayer Ministries received a vision for reaching all 1 million pastors in America by having Christian businesses and individuals sponsor pastors in their community. After hearing the vision, prayer and discussion, the Praying Pastors Project was born as a project of America’s National Prayer Committee.

Phil ~ Why is an initiative like this so strategic for our nation and beyond?

Dean ~ The subtitle of “Giving Ourselves to Prayer” refers to Acts 6:4 where the disciples say “we will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” Our theological schools do a good job of training in the scriptures and pastoral ministries but neglect the prayer part that the disciples deemed to be important. Given the current state in our nation and the world, people are asking their pastors for prayer, asking how to pray and even asking how they should pray. All of this while most pastors don’t feel equipped to teach and disciples others in prayer. In fact many pastors are ashamed of the quality of their prayer lives. Prayer seems like inactivity and there is always a list of ‘urgent’ things to be done. We have pushed them to be CEO’s and to run good services and programs but we have not encouraged them to be men and women of prayer. Then we are amazed when things seem to be done in human strength. I was in local church ministry for over 20 years and I know the pressures that pastors feel. I think that’s why this project is so appealing to me.

At the Praying Pastors Project, we believe that Praying Pastors produce Praying Churches. If our pastors become men and women dedicated to prayer and begin to teach and model in our congregations, our churches will become praying churches and the power of God will move in and through them. When that happens look out. Revival will break out. Our churches, our communities, our states and our nation will be transformed.

Phil ~ What feedback are you getting as the Praying Pastors Project rolls out?

Dean ~ The response we’ve received so far has been completely positive. Prayer leaders are catching the vision for the project. We often hear, “this is what I’ve been praying for, for years.” Prayer leaders have such big hearts for their pastors. National Day of Prayer coordinators have been extremely excited about PPP. They can visualize the benefits of bringing the Praying Pastors Project into their communities. They have such a heart to see pastors grow in prayer and partner with them to encourage prayer not only on the National Day of Prayer but throughout the year. Intercessors really catch the vision. They are constantly lifting up their pastors and see this as a way to see their pastors grow in prayer.

Phil ~ I read how one pastor plans to use Giving Ourselves to Prayer with his congregation. Is this one of the hoped for results?

Dean ~ Yes, we’ve had several pastors who plan to use the book as the basis of a sermon series. We hadn’t really envisioned that because “Giving Ourselves to Prayer” is a very academic book but if a pastor can take the content and use it to teach from the pulpit, that’s great. What we have envisioned is a pastor using Alvin VanderGriend’s transforming devotional, “Love to Pray” with their congregations. Each sponsored pastors receive a copy of “Love to Pray” with their membership. It is already setup to be used as a 40 Days of Prayer initiative. Hundreds of churches have already used the 40 Days materials. Church members read the “Love to Pray” daily devotional for the 40 days and pastors preach for 8 weeks on prayer. Sermon outlines and notes are available for the 40 Days initiative. There are sermon outlines/notes for the series. They are available for PPP members on the “4PastorsOnly” website.

There is a Kenyan pastor who has created a 160 hour training program for pastors using “Giving Ourselves to Prayer.” He is currently equipping 150 pastors from more than 5 countries.

Phil ~ It seems to me that the PPP has the potential to be a catalyst in Pastors' Prayer Groups, across city-wide networks, even within denominations...

Dean ~ PPP desires to see pastors within a community gather together for prayer and encourage each other in growing in prayer. We envision having resources that will help facilitate that kind of process within pastors’ prayer groups, ministerial associations and within denominations. There are lots of pastors who get together regularly to write sermons together, why not include prayer? Can you imagine a group of pastors, regardless of the group, gathering together to encourage each other to grow in prayer? A community or denomination whose pastors commit to praying together, for their communities and their congregations will see God move. It’s God’s heart.

Phil ~ The success of this depends upon the response of individuals on behalf of their pastors, and rightly so, but how can that person have a wider impact?

Dean ~ While we desire to see individuals respond on behalf of their pastors, we really want to see this go beyond a pastor in a church to the pastors of a community. Individuals can become Community Coordinators to sponsor the pastors in their community. We have all the resources available for an individual to plan a project, secure sponsorship from Christian businesses, individuals and churches and distribute the resources to the pastors in their community.

A second way a wider impact comes is when people begin to lift up their pastors in prayer on a regular basis. Often times people especially those with a passion for intercession become critical of pastors who are as passionate. Instead, begin a prayer group for your pastor. Let your pastor know that your group is regularly praying for him/her. When you pray for someone you love, the tone of your prayers change.

Phil ~ Dean, what is your hope for everyone reading this interview?

Dean ~ My hope is to see your readers lift up their pastors in more than words. I’d love to see love expressed in action. My biggest dream is to see every reader sponsor their pastors in the Praying Pastors Project and then continue beyond that in lifting them up in prayer on a daily basis. The $40 it takes to sponsor a pastor is a small investment in the life of your pastor and the Kingdom. Prayed for pastors are much more likely to be able to withstand the assaults that come their way. Our pastors need prayer shields because the evil one loves to see them fall. As a former pastor, I much preferred being prayed for than being preyed on.

If they don’t know how to pray for their pastor, Jennifer Kennedy Dean has written a 30 day prayer guide to help us pray scriptural prayers for our pastors that is free on our website. Lastly, this project is still small so we need people who catch the vision to share it with others who have a heart for prayer and praying for pastors. They can go to our website and look around. We’ve made it user friendly and try to answer whatever questions might arise. If they have questions, they can find our contact information and we’ll be glad to answer any questions. ===>Click headline to access Praying Pastors Project website . . .

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